Last May I was given the opportunity to spend 2 days with a couple of friends of mine under the teaching of Rob Bell in a one on fifty scenario in Laguna Beach- something he's done a few more times since then with other similar sized groups.
Anyway, I wrote a post in the days that followed about it, promising to write four posts, but never came through and stopped after the first when life got too crazy to blog faithfully. Initially, I had planned to write about the following 4 things:
1. Preaching and sermon development.
2. Sabbath and soul care
3. Dealing with criticism
4. Reading, thinking, brainstorming, and idea mining.
Rob mentioned a theme God has brought up in my life many times since. Primarily, the idea that we spend our lives searching for meaning and love through what we do and what others say about us, when God has already given it so freely to us. In the process, instead of finding success- we often wound our soul, drain our energy, and fail to develop healthy rhythms of sabbath and energy management.
GOD IS PLEASED WITH YOU.
I don't know many believers who live that way. I don't know many pastors who do. I really don't know many people who think this is what God thinks, or if he does, then he might be pleased with you... but in the way that only a parent can be. But Rob reminded this small group of primarily pastors that the very first thing the voice of the Father says to Jesus as he begins his public ministry is "This is my son, in whom I am well pleased." God is pleased with Jesus before he actually does anything. So far, he's been baptized. NONE of the ministry recorded in the gospels has even happened. At this point, he's essentially lived a life of obscurity for 30 years and followed John into the water's of baptism. The reminder to the believer is this: God's pleasure is not something you earn or achieve a level of success to get. God is simply pleased with you because Christ is in you. Period.
"WHO YOU ARE NOT IS REALLY NOT THAT INTERESTING."
If Rob said the above statement once, he said it 10 times in 2 days. Stop spending all your time trying to become who you are not. God has made you who you are and working to become who you are not results in a boring life. So be you. Be the best you that you can be. Be the quirky, normal, funky, loud, creative, simple, adventurous, quiet, complicated and definitive you. Stop apologizing for who you are and who you are not. When you do this, you can empower others to do the same.
"SIN IS A CULPABLE DISTURBANCE OF SHALOM."
Rob said or maybe quoted someone- I don't recall- that sin is.... read this again carefully.... "A culpable disturbance of shalom". That's some deep thinking there. Sin becomes when life is not at peace. When my soul is at unrest because of some ill in my life, it's an indicator of the entrance of sin because God is all about shalom. He is at peace. When we try to become who we are not, we lack shalom and we lack a piece of God... A BIG PEACE. Don't do that. It jacks with your soul in profound ways and wounds you.
"DON'T LEAD PEOPLE AWAY FROM SIN, LEAD THEM TO JESUS."
Order matters. In our lives and the lives of those around us. Movement towards Jesus will necessarily result in a movement from sin. But focusing on sin will leave you empty and angry. Focusing on Jesus will not. Live and lead in a way that moves people with the positive. Move your own soul towards potential. If you're in a hole, spend less time focusing on the depth and the walls and more time gazing and the sky and looking for a rope out. Jesus is not in your life to point out the depth of your sin, he's there to restore the imago dei in you.
FIND YOUR LIFE-GIVING RHYTHM.
Creation has a rhythm to it. Rob said, "Creativity needs patterns". Life does too. Seasons have a rhythm. Hours, days, weeks, months, years... have a rhythm to them. Crops have a rhythm. Ecclesiastes 3 speaks of a rhythm for all things, a time for this and one for that. When pastors fail to find a rhythm in life, they work till they drop, ditching the sabbath, and then quit exhausted and burnt out. Rhythm is part of healthy living. Find a rhythm in work, in rest, in home, in everything. This is why when you go on a month long vacation or missions trip and come home you feel a little out of sorts. It's a big break in rhythm. We are designed for it. You need it. Sabbath is about a regular rest in your regular rhythm of life... and it's soul nourishing. Quit giving a head nod agreement to this and cancel some stuff. Now.
ASK: WHEN ARE YOU MOST ALIVE?
Discover what feeds you: what is it that you could do forever? Discover what drains you: what is it that saps the most energy from you and leaves you feeling like you need a nap or a beer?.. ha ha. I said that last comment, not Rob. Anyway, If you, like me, find that paying the bills exhausts you, then don't do it in your most creative energy slot of the day. If you're a morning person, then structure your day around protecting your mornings. If you're a night person, then agree to meet with people for breakfast appointments and keep your nights for stuff you need your most creative and fully present you.
Wednesday I'll post some thoughts on criticism. Ironically, the timing is perfect cuz I'm neck deep in my next writing project... a book on that subject alone.